Artist of the Week: Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn is an English musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and record producer. He first established himself as a mainstream British pop icon in the nineties, before expanding his bottomless music interests to hip-pop, opera, electronica and world music. Just like David Byrne, Damon Albarn seems to be the kind of man who would collaborate with anyone for a bag of Doritos: after more than two decades releasing his sometimes very personal songs under different monikers, he has recently released what can be arguably considered his first proper solo debut.
Though it is undeniable that Blur were one of the polarizing forces of Brit-pop hegemony in the mid-90s, the truth is that Damon Albarn soon pushed the band to broader musical landscapes incorporating lo-fi, electronic and hip hop in their later albums. In 1998, he created along with Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett a staggering “virtual band” that would become hugely successful worldwide. Gorillaz is not only a cartoon-animated act that draws influences from urban music, dub and alternative rock, but the product of a collaboration between various musicians, with Albarn (of course) being the only permanent musical contributor.
Though the Internet might tell you that Damon Albarn released other solo records before Everyday Robots, one can really make a case defending that the African blues of 2002’s Mali Music, the demos of 2003’s Democrazy and the operatic grandeur of both 2007’s Monkey: Journey to the West and 2012’s Dr. Dee are less idiosyncratic of his musical persona than the records he released for the supergroups The Good, The Bad and The Queen or Rocket Juice & The Moon. Ever since Graham Coxon left Blur that Damon Albarn has been the unquestioned director of his musical adventures and projects, which makes, at first glance, Everyday Robots not a big novelty. That is, until you actually listened to it – once you do, what you find is his most personal record to date; a melancholic yet warmed reflection about high-tech alienation that was not made to be listened while multi-tasking; a record that demands you either pause or stop everything else you’re doing, before pressing play.
João Pedro da Costa is a web studies scholar and a music fan.